Aging, attention, and the use of meaning during visual search
Twenty-four young adults (M = 21.0 years) and 24 older adults (M = 65.3 years) performed a primary task (visual search) and a secondary task (tone detection) concurrently. The search task required subjects to decide, on each trial, if a single target letter was present in a multiletter display. Performance in the visual search task was faster and more accurate when the display letters formed a word than when they formed a pronounceable nonword. The attentional demands of the search task, as reflected in tone detection performance, were greater for nonword displays than for word displays. The older adults were both less efficient in the search task and more vulnerable to attentional demands than were young adults. The two age groups were essentially equivalent, however, in the ways in which the semantic properties of the stimulus display influenced the efficiency and attentional demands of visual search performance. © 1987 Ablex Publishing Corporation.
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